By Meera
The Motorcycle Diaries - Making of Che Guevara, The Motorcycle Diaries


Travel opens the mind to the raw elements of human life. It helps you understand the culture of the region, the everyday life of its people and gets you closer to the land. Ernesto and Alberto decide to go on a life changing road trip across South America in their beloved Motorcyle – The mighty One. They speed through Buenos Aires after biding goodbye to their families and embark on a journey that is truly ambitious. The route snakes through the Andes, kisses the coast of Chile, roughs the Atacama Desert and explores the Peruvian Amazon just to emerge in Caracas, Venezuela for Alberto’s 30th birthday. Of course as with all road trips, nothing goes according to plan. How the two survive, what changes their perspective of life and what they lose and gain in this journey forms the crux of the movie.

Since the movie is based largely on the written word of Che Guevara, the iconic Marxist guerrilla commander and revolutionary, we already know the ultimate outcome of the trip. But what makes an aspiring medical student who is just a semester away from graduating abandon his doctoral degree to fight for the people? What does he learn from living with the lepers and why does his heart ache to cross the river that separates the sick from the well? In spite of being faced with exigent circumstances why does Ernesto not lie like his friend and opts to mouth the aching honest truth about a man’s health?

The movie captures the rugged landscape effortlessly. As they land in Manchu Pinchu and Ernesto wonders how the inhabitants of this brilliant Inca civilization are reduced to build the city of Lima, Peru, his thoughts and the camera leave us spell bound. As Alberto abandons his ascent saying it is not human to climb the mountain any more, we see a Native American gingerly walking past them. What gives men the strength to fight everyday battles that seem gargantuan to others? In the desert, as the mining couple recollect the travails of their life and abandonment of their child, our heart aches on the face of such poverty. What makes people blind to such poverty and instead see men as mere labor?

Before this film, Che Guevara was merely a cult figure that appeared on tee shirts and posters. He was the Karl Marx of Latin America that I knew nothing about. But to watch this movie and see why Che chose the path that eventually led to his death makes me wonder if he were alive would he do it all over again? His life’s calling was to speak for the mute, to fight for the crushed and to bring justice to an entire continent engulfed in injustice.

The motorcycle diaries open our heart and mind to the beauty of Latin America and the cruelty that we as humans are capable of. Unfortunately in the 50 years that has passed since his journey, not much has changed, which makes it all the more significant for us to watch this travelogue.

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